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A Touch of Class and a Slice of the Past in Tuscany

A Touch of Class and a Slice of the Past in Tuscany
27 June 2016 0 Comment

A perfect blend of a beautiful past and a contemporary look has gone into the creation of the recent make-over at Dopolavoro at La Foce here in southern Tuscany.

The story of Antonio and Iris Origo is famous in these parts of southern Tuscany. In 1924 Antonio bought a vast estate south of Pienza called La Foce, with beautiful scenery but poor farming land of clay and stone. They set about reclaiming the land and turned the estate into a viable farm and together with their loyal and hardworking estate workers, created one of the most beautiful properties then and today. In respect for and with an eye to the well-being of their workers and the estate the Origo’s constructed a kindergarten, a school and a clinic together with the building called Dopolavoro La Foce in 1939. It was in this building that country dances were held and plays featuring the workers children entertained all for generations. People would come for miles around to enjoy a chat over an estate wine – it became the social heart and soul of La Foce.

Fast forward to today and we are confronted with a conundrum that occupies a lot of my discussions with locals and visitors alike to this beautiful region and it involves food? Early in 2012 a new generation of the family decided to take control again of Dopolavoro that had been languishing as a sometimes acceptable place to stop by to eat a bowl of pasta. Securing the services of a food and beverage consultant out of Rome the place was given a complete transformation, which raised the question, at least in my mind, why fix the wheel when it’s not broken? To take a minimalist look, (shades of off-white and open spaces of a New York eatery) and impose that style within the ancient fields and towns and villages of Tuscany has alarm bells ringing for me.

All my life, wherever I have lived and for the last 25 years that has been in Italy, I’ve scoured the countryside for traditional, home spun cooking. If by chance as I did once many years ago in the Marche region, stumble across a place that has me thinking I’m an extra in a film by Fellini, I’m usually in for a good meal. Such places are being squeezed into extinction as a new generation of Italians travel to the ‘new world’ and return with the desire to impose something of the efficiency and internationality of the world of food upon tattoria’s and bars in small towns and villages, once frequented by their grandparents, as is the case here at Dopolavoro. Does it work? Depends on who you ask but if the measure of a memorable meal in Tuscany, rests in part because we are continually enchanted by the location, with its ancient stones, open fireplaces and the inviting aroma’s emanating from the noisy kitchen complete with the voices of three generations of the family that run the place, then I don’t believe a food and beverage consultant is required here in Tuscany or anywhere in Italy.

I know, you will lambast me as a sentimentalist, wallowing in the past but tell me honestly, do you remember your first meal in Italy and if so what memory of it do you have? I am finding it more and more difficult to be excited by a lot of ‘eating out’ in Tuscany these days and I am continually reminded of what I am missing out on, each time I eat at an Italian’s home where the meal has been cooked by nonna! In those kitchens the magic continues as does the consistency of excellent cooking and that certainly is not the case, sadly, in a lot of restaurants in Italy today.

If by chance you find yourself at La Foce and their gardens alone are worth a visit, you might like to try their gnocchi di patate con animelle (the thymus glands of a calf, usually sautéed or grilled, and often chopped up and used in pastas as a filling), which is a dish you rarely find on a menu these days. It was rather good!

La Foce Ristorante Bar – Strada della Vittoria, 90 – Localita La Foce (SI) tel/fax 0578.754025 (Closed on Monday)

A tavola non si invecchia.”

Peter Kilby
About the Author

Peter Kilby is an artist, writer, story-teller, journalist and avid traveller who has lived and worked in Italy since 1987. He created Perfect Traveller to bring the world of art and history closer to you. Download the “free” Perfect Traveller app and enjoy the best audio tours available; about Italy today and yesterday. Sign Up to this website and submit your travel stories and become part of the Perfect Traveller community.

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